Lesson Plan: The Structure of the United Nations

San Francisco 1945 and the Charter of the United Nations

This Office of War Information film documents the founding United Nations conference of April to June 1945 in which the U.N. Charter was created, debated, and signed by all 50 participating nations.


The United Nations was created on June 26, 1945. Officially going into effect on October 24, 1945 UN Charter was established to maintain peace and security, and promote international cooperation. This charter organized the United Nations to comprise of six principal organs including a General Assembly consisting of representatives from all member states and a Security Council with veto power. Growing from the original members, the United Nations now consists of 193 member countries. This lesson provides video clips exploring the structure of the United Nations including the General Assembly, the Security Council, the International Court of Justice and the different programs and agencies.


  • WARM-UP:

    Pose the following question to the class before beginning the class.

    • How can governments promote peace and human rights around the world?

    Have the students view the following two clips and answer the following questions. Students can also use the United Nations Handout. Review the answers with the class after the students have had time to answer the questions.

    Video Clip: San Francisco 1945 and the Charter of the United Nations (4:06)

    • Explain the history and the background of the creation of the United Nations Charter. How and why was it created?

    Video Clip: The Structure of the United Nations (1:57)

    • Explain the structure and the role of the General Assembly.
    • What does the Security Council do?
    • Explain the role of the International Court of Justice.

    Using the note-taking chart on the United Nations Handout, watch each of the video clips and record notes about the structure, responsibilities and powers of each of the parts of the United Nations.

    Video Clip: United Nations: How the Secretary General is Selected (1: 46)

    Video Clip: Senator Bob Corker criticizes the UN Security Council (2:55)

    Video Clip: International Court of Justice (1:12)

    Video Clip: Structure of the UN International Court of Justice (2:06)

    Video Clip: Role of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force (6:38)

    Video Clip: U.S. Funding for the United Nations (3:40)

    Video Clip: Criticisms of the United Nations (1:55)


    After viewing the clips and completing the chart, have the students break into small groups and discuss the following question:

    • Is the structure of the United Nations appropriate for fulfilling its goals? Provide examples to support your argument.

    Each group should reach a consensus and be prepared to report out their ideas to the class. As a class, have each group explain their ideas.


    As an exit slip, students will answer the following question before leaving the class.

    • What is the purpose of the United Nations and how does the UN fulfill its mission?

    C-SPAN Video Library- Using the C-SPAN Video Library, search for world leaders who have spoken at the United Nations. Summarize how their speech reflects the purpose of the United Nations but also their own country's self-interest.

    Additional Writing Prompts-

    • Should the United States maintain its current role and commitment to the United Nations?
    • Does the inclusion of dictators and oppressive countries help or hinder the United Nations accomplish its mission?
    • In what ways is the structure of the United Nations similar to the structure of the government of the United States?

Additional Resources


  • Diplomacy
  • General Assembly
  • International Court Of Justice
  • Peacekeeping
  • Security Council Secretary General
  • United Nations
  • Veto


Foreign PolicyGeography


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